Consul General Okada’s Web Message for April 2014
Hello everyone. The cherry trees at my official residence are in full bloom. We are now at the height of spring.
I recently visited the City of Prince Rupert.
In Japan, due to the discontinuation of nuclear power generation and in order to secure a supply of electricity, the importation of fuel for thermal generation such as natural gas and oil has rapidly increased. Such a surge of imports has been causing major problems for Japan including the record-high trade deficit of over 11 trillion yen last year. Under these circumstances, my country has a high expectation for importing natural gas from British Columbia.
In Prince Rupert, large projects are planned making the city a prospective terminal for natural gas exportation from BC. During my visit to the city, the mayor and a Port Authority director briefed me on their port being a logistics terminal, including the current situation and future development plans.
They told me that the Port of Prince Rupert, located at the mouth of a fjord, offers geographical advantages as a harbour; namely, its deep-water allows large vessels to dock directly at the terminals and its pilotage is much shorter compared with Vancouver. At present, the port is equipped with container yards with direct connections to CN Rail, grain storage facilities for exporting wheat, and warehouses for shipping out wood pallet. I toured the planned sites of natural gas related facilities that will be also built in the port.
The City of Prince Rupert is currently a small municipality with a population of approximately twelve thousand. During my visit, I noticed that the most bustling spot was the Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut shop and I had the impression that it’s a typical rural town in Canada. However, once full-scale construction of such facilities commences, the city will see a dramatic change as large numbers of workers start pouring in.
Concerning these large projects, when the massive construction of the facilities as planned starts, I speculate that many issues still need to be addressed: how they will secure the necessary workforce; how to proceed with the infrastructure preparation for a myriad of new workers; and how to implement environmental assessments to ensure mutually beneficial development with the First Nations.
The development of the city as a natural gas export terminal is also important to Japan and I would like to pay close attention to the progress.
Prince Rupert plays an important role not only as a logistics terminal, but it is also significant to our Consulate as a sister city of Owase, Japan. Prior to my trip, I asked the mayor of Owase City if he had any message for his counterpart in Prince Rupert and the mayor replied that he would like to invite the mayor of Prince Rupert to Owase for the ceremony in June to mark the city’s 60th anniversary. When I delivered the Japanese mayor’s message together with his invitation letter, the mayor of Prince Rupert told me that he would love to attend the ceremony in Owase City. I look forward to seeing more mutual exchanges like this one.